Mental Health Awareness Month
Employee Mental Health

How Big D Construction is Changing the Conversation Around Mental Health

May 3, 2024

As part of Tava Health’s Employee Mental Health initiative for Mental Health Awareness Month, we interviewed individuals who are building exceptional mental health benefits for employees.

In this interview, Tava spoke with Marissa Gallegos, Senior Benefits Specialist at Big D Construction, who is overseeing their wellness program. She's also an executive member of the Utah Suicide Prevention Coalition and works with state leaders on suicide prevention. She shares her insight on how to build a workplace culture that values mental health.

Mental Health Awareness Month takes place every May, and this year, Tava Health focuses on “Employee Mental Health.” As part of our campaign, we’re taking the entire month to highlight different HR and benefits leaders who are making huge impacts on the mental health of their employees. You can read all the stories here.

How does your company actively promote mental health awareness and destigmatization in the workplace?

At Big D Construction, we're really proactive about promoting mental health awareness and breaking down stigmas. We also have our Wellness Wednesday messages where we address topics like substance misuse or anger management, and we provide resources like Tava Health or CPR training with naloxone. Additionally, we hold regular monthly trainings on suicide prevention and mental health first aid. It's all about normalizing these conversations and making sure everyone feels supported. It also helps that I’m involved in a coalition where I bring in fresh information from national and local resources every month. The more we talk about these things, the more it’s normalized.

Editor's Note: Read more about debunking stigmas around therapy here.

Have you had any challenges implementing Tava? How are the weekly and monthly training sessions going?

Employee engagement is always difficult in our industry. Construction is largely remote, but in-person training is more effective because they like the interaction and find it more engaging. However, that’s not always possible when you have remote employees all over the place and it’s difficult to walk away from the job site. While virtual options like Zoom or webinars have helped, time constraints often hinder participation, with about half of those who sign up ultimately attending due to sudden job site demands. To address this, we're exploring on-demand resources, such as the Tava library, offering flexibility and accessibility. It’s great to be able to tell employees, “You have these resources available to you on demand whenever you need it.” Additionally, expanding therapy options beyond traditional nine-to-five hours, like Tava offers, better serves our community's needs.

How do you ensure that managers and employees have access to resources and support for mental health concerns?

Ensuring access to mental health resources for both managers and employees has been a journey. Initially, we faced the challenge of reaching our field workers, who can’t easily access our intranet or don’t remember their logins. We tried emails, postcards, and wallet-size cards, which helped, but it wasn't enough. Then we innovated by placing QR codes on hard hats, providing instant access to a landing page with resources so they wouldn’t need to log in. Sometimes the Site Superintendent needs to help someone who's not a Big D employee because we work with subcontractors. In this case, the superintendent could say, “Hey, scan this code on my hard hat. It'll give you resources that can help.” I really like having Tava as a benefit on the landing page because even though the subcontractors might not have the paid benefit through Big D, they can still access Tava and pay through their own ways or through their own insurance. We can be the doorway or the gatekeeper to help them get to the right resource. I really like that we can facilitate access to resources like Tava, even for those outside our paid benefits. We also include free national resources. Communication is key; we engage spouses with postcards, utilize job site posters, and ensure managers are informed through quarterly meetings. By employing various communication methods, we ensure everyone, regardless of tech savviness or location, can access the support they need.

Can you share examples of how your company fosters a culture of open communication regarding mental health issues?

The hard reality in our industry is that mental health issues are often ignored until they become an issue. When a mental health issue arose, a superintendent sought my help, leading to a guest speaking opportunity at their meeting. Positive feedback resulted in regular appearances, establishing trust and accessibility. We prioritize ongoing support, understanding the difficulty in asking for help, especially for men. Encouraging employees to seek help for their families often leads to self-awareness and seeking support for themselves. We offer a range of resources, categorized with a stoplight metaphor for clarity. Green for maintaining health with a health coach, yellow for mental health challenges addressed by Tava Health, and red for crisis intervention with our suicide prevention team. This approach empowers employees to understand their needs and access appropriate resources even if they don’t understand what’s going on inside of them. This approach empowers employees to understand their needs and access appropriate resources, fostering a culture of understanding and support.

In what ways does your organization accommodate employees' mental health needs, such as flexible work arrangements or counseling services?

To accommodate our employees' mental health needs, we prioritize awareness and proactive support. In our industry, where remote work and travel are common, we educate managers about associated risks and protective measures. For instance, we assess team setups to ensure those far from home have support systems in place, whether it's adjusting project locations or fostering buddy systems. Regular one-on-one check-ins are encouraged, not just for performance evaluations, but also to inquire about well-being. Managers are trained to approach issues with empathy, offering resources for personal challenges and providing a listening ear. By fostering this supportive environment, we strive to address mental health needs and promote employee well-being.

How do you measure the effectiveness of your mental health initiatives and ensure they are meeting the needs of your diverse workforce?

Measuring the effectiveness of our mental health initiatives is crucial to ensuring they meet the diverse needs of our workforce. We conduct a yearly needs assessment to track progress and identify areas for improvement. Additionally, we analyze engagement rates and data provided by vendors like Tava Health to gauge effectiveness. Our stress relief benefit allows us to monitor stress levels and enrollment trends, while appointments and conditions tracked by Tava Health provide insight into service utilization. Training programs such as Mental Health First Aid, QPR, and VitalCog training include pre and post-assessments to assess learning outcomes. Qualitative feedback from employees also informs our understanding of impact, helping us continually refine and improve our initiatives based on both quantitative and qualitative data.

What advice would you give to other HR leaders who are looking to prioritize mental health within their own organizations?

My advice to HR leaders prioritizing mental health within their organizations is to seek connections with other HR professionals. Wellness is a vast field, and it can be overwhelming to navigate the multitude of resources available. By joining communication groups, you can share ideas and learn from others' experiences, avoiding the need to reinvent the wheel. Utilize existing templates and toolkits to kickstart your program efficiently. Additionally, don't underestimate the value of talking to your employees directly. They are the ones who know best what they need. Engage with them regularly, whether on job sites or in offices, to understand their challenges and concerns. By listening to your employees and incorporating their feedback, you can tailor your initiatives to effectively meet their needs and create a workplace culture that truly values mental health.

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