BROADVIEW, Ill. — According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly one in five U.S. adults copes with some form of mental illness — anxiety, depression, and substance abuse among them. Since the pandemic began, many of these conditions have worsened. Now more than ever, mental health has become an important topic in the workplace, charging employers with the critical task of creating accessible resources and mental-health-friendly policies.

In early March, The Unified Group — an association of HVAC commercial contractors in the industry — kicked off its 2021 Virtual Human Resources Forum with Pat Fuller, director and wellness engineer at BKS Partners, sharing mental health and well-being initiatives. Fuller presented on the importance of lowering stress levels and discussed the many apps available for members to share throughout their organization to help employees manage stress. One of the more popular apps, Headspace, works well and is designed to focus on the basics of meditation and mindfulness.

“I found Pat’s presentation very interesting and educational,” said Mendi Arnold of Cullum Mechanical Construction. “It was very thought-provoking and ignited serious self-reflection. I want to share the information with the Cullum population.”

Members then discussed lessons learned since dealing with COVID-19 in the workplace, including survival tips, how they kept their teams intact and motivated, and also touched on safety measures that have been implemented in the office and on job sites. The first day wrapped up with members learning about creative recruiting methods other Unified Group members are using and what their hiring process looks like.

On the second day, Suzanne Boy, a founding member of boutique law firm Boy Agnew Potanovic, PLLC, updated the group on FMLA/ADA and reasonable accommodations. Breakout sessions followed to share and receive feedback on the biggest challenges and struggles members have faced within their role. Best ideas and technology implemented were presented throughout the day, such as leadership development programs created in-house, HR and payroll platforms to help with onboarding, and office communication and electronic paystub delivery.

“It was comforting to know that other HR professionals are facing similar challenges in the workplace, such as getting some employees to follow protocols and understand that procedures are in place for everyone's benefit,” said Shantel Bradley of Standard Plumbing and Heating. “Overall, the virtual forum was great and surprisingly interactive. It did not disappoint!”

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