How Northern California HR managers are tackling remote vs. in-office workers, mental health support, recruiting in a tight job market

To be in the “people business” these days is to have nimble, insightful and empathic.

Hiring patterns are in disarray, with job seekers carrying more power than before. Even current employees consider career changes while employers ponder how much of the workforce needs to be in the office full time, or is hybrid the best way to go.

It’s a good time, then, to ask area human resources leaders a few questions. North Bay Business Journal Research Michelle Fox prepared the following survey.

Are you allowing staff to work partly from home, partly in the office? If so, what guardrails have you put in place to manage this hybrid arrangement?

Ashley Baker

Chief People Officer, Vivalon, Inc. 930 Tamalpais Ave., San Rafael, CA 94901; 415-295-0573;

Ashley Baker: Yes, roles that do not have responsibilities requiring them to be in person are permitted to work from home parttime; we have a telecommute policy that provides guardrails.

Kristina Derkos

Senior Vice President of People, Redwood Credit Union, 3033 Cleveland Ave., Santa Rosa, CA 95403; 707-576-5263;

Kristina Derkos has more than 20 years of experience in human resources, training, and development in the private and public sectors, in both union and non-union environments.

Prior to joining Redwood Credit Union, she was the Northern California human resource manager for Waste Management, Inc., which had a workforce of approximately 4,000 employees.

Derkos earned her Bachelor of Science degree in public administration from the University of San Francisco, and her Master of Professional Studies degree in human resources and employment relations from Penn State. She also holds a certificate in human resources management from Sonoma State University and is certified as a senior professional in human resources with SHRM and HRC.

Kristina Derkos: Several years before the pandemic, RCU began a purposeful strategic initiative to create an environment with greater flexibility that offers our team the same amazing RCU employee experience regardless of where they physically perform their work. The pandemic brought greater focus to our visionand kicked our strategy into hyper speed, leveraging the challenges to create an even better employee experience that will help the organization successfully navigate the new normal.

Monica Flores

Human Resources Manager, Quattrocchi Kwok Architects, 636 Fifth St., Santa Rosa, CA 95404; 707-576-0829;

Monica Flores: We continue to evolve our work approach and currently allow our staff to work partially from home, up to three days per week.

That said, we are sensitive to the differing needs of our staff and have been flexible with many on our requested time of two days per week in the office. We are utilizing regular communication to keep staff up to date, evaluate project needs, and ensure support and mentoring for newer QKA staff. Brenda Gilchrist

Many of the HR Matrix clients discovered that many of their positions can now be done remotely or partly remote. Interestingly, throughout this remote working experiment over the last two years, our clients realized they didn't need very many guardrails. In fact, many employees have demonstrated increased performance and overall describe an increased level of job satisfaction associated with less drive time, more flexibility, more autonomy and less distractions.

Lynn Ichinaga

Vice President of People & Culture, Friedman’s Home Improvement, 1385 McDowell Blvd., Ste. 100, Petaluma CA 94954; 707-584-7811;

Lynn Ichinaga leads the company’s recruitment, onboarding, training and various robust initiatives to foster inclusion, benefits, safety and team member support. She has been in this role for 10 years.

Lynn Ichinaga: As a retail operation, the majority of our team members work in-person in customer-facing roles and we have structured our corporate sphere to emulate this environment.

Over the last two years, team members in our corporate headquarters have transitioned from remote to hybrid work models, returning in-person to our office in Petaluma at least two days per week. Once this shift began, we found that many wanted to come into the office for more days than required. Alongside health measures like sanitization, masking when required and coordinated scheduling for cohorts, support for hybrid work has included regular Microsoft Teams check-ins from managing staff, the use of a central digital communication platform, shared goals and agreed upon guidelines, and an emphasis on accurate timekeeping.

By the end of 2022 we will have outlined our policy for hybrid work capabilities, including goals and expectations.

Linda Lang

Chief human resources officer, MarinHealth, 250 Bon Air Road, Greenbrae CA 94904; 415-464-2096;

Linda Lang: Whether someone can work part or full time from home depends upon the employee’s role.  Those who are in direct patient care have continued to be on-site at the medical center and in the medical offices to see patients.  For those who can work in a hybrid model, we updated our remote work policy.   We included the caveat that remote provisions could be subject to change, depending upon county and state e health mandates, the requirement that the work being performed lends itself to a remote location and that employees granted the privilege to work remotely be able to work independently with demonstrable productivity.

Beverly Murray

Regional Chief Human Resources Officer, Providence Northern California Regional Office, 1111 Sonoma Ave., Santa Rosa, CA 95405; 707-522-1510;

Beverly Murray has almost 20 years of experience working in human resources, with expertise in caregiver engagement, labor relations and leadership development. She earned a bachelor of arts degree in mass communications from Virginia Tech and a J.D. from the College of William and Mary, Marshall-Whythe School of Law. She has served as a college professor for over 30 years. Murray is a member of SHRM and RPI (Recognition Professionals International) and currently serves as the secretary of the Hands4HopeLA board.  Hands4HopeLA Is an after-school program for single parents and children in North Hollywood.

Beverly Murray: Job and schedule flexibility are key recruitment and retention components.  Yes, we do have job classifications that engage in hybrid work arrangements.  We have hybrid and remote work agreements with caregivers that provide for safety, daily operations and payments for technology required to work off-site.

Stephanie Reynolds

Director of Internal Operations, Sonoma Clean Power, 431 E St., Santa Rosa, CA 95404; 855-202-2139;

Stephanie Reynolds brings over 30 years of experience to her role at SCP. After 12 years with the County of Sonoma, she took a chance and made the leap to SCP in 2013 as one of its first team members. Reynolds attended Santa Rosa Junior College and Portland State University.

Stephanie Reynolds: While easing back to the office after COVID-related closures, we determined that working together in the same space was essential to keep our company culture and team productivity similar to what it was pre-pandemic. For positions that allow remote work, we offer that employees may voluntarily work from home on Mondays and Fridays, and the rest of the weekthe employees’ eight-hour workday needs to incorporate the core work hours of 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at our primary headquarters. For our customer service representatives and employees at Sonoma Clean Power’s Advanced Energy Center, their roles require more robust in-person hours. Setting hours/days for remote and in-office work has made the transition easier.

Tiffany Vigil

Director of Human Resources, Side by Side, 300 Sunny Hills Drive, San Anselmo, CA 94960;

Tiffany Vigil brings over 10 years of both clinical and human resources experience to her role . In addition to holding a license in marriage and family therapy, Vigil has a bachelor's degree in psychology and a master’ degree in counseling from San Francisco State University.

Tiffany Vigil: Yes. We offer a hybrid arrangement with staff who are able to complete their work remotely while still serving the needs of our youth and organization. We have increased our IT accessibility and security of our systems while working remotely to ensure our staff and the youth we serve are set up for success and privacy. Among the benefits of having remote and hybrid staff is a wider candidate pool that allows for increased access to talent and diversity of hires.

Melanie Wise

Vice President of Human Resources, Nelson, 19080 Lomita Ave., Sonoma, CA 95476; 707-935-6113;

Melanie Wise has over 20 years’ tenure in human resources developing and executing strategies that maximize human capital effectiveness and cultural transformation, organizational design, talent management, employee engagement, and transformative HR initiatives.

Melanie Wise: Most of our positions are hybrid, but some positions are now in the office fulltime. For example, we have program teams that work at the client’s location, and those jobs are 100% on-site.

We also have certain positions that deal with critical processes or procedures that require staff to be in the office fulltime. We’ve found that some teams work well outside of the office, while others do not. We’ve therefore brought back the teams that work better in the office environment. There are also teams that we thought we’d bring back to the office fulltime, but they’re currently hybrid because that model is working for them.

We have guardrails in place to manage hybrid work schedules, including close contact between managers and employees, regular team or one-on-one meetings, and monitoring activities like sales and production numbers.

Lori Zaret

Senior vice president and chief human resources officer, Exchange Bank, 545 Fourth St., Santa Rosa, CA 95401; 707-524-3000;

Lori Zaret has more than 30 years of human resources management experience in the insurance, banking, telecommunications and manufacturing industries. She joined Exchange Bank in 2004 and in 2010 was promoted to senior vice president and chief human resources officer, leading all HR and learning and development functions.

Prior to Exchange Bank, Zaret spent 15 years in the insurance industry with John Alden Life Insurance Company, American Express, Zurich Insurance Companyand, ultimately, Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company, which brought her to California.  She then joined JDS Uniphase and soon assumed the role of director of human resources, supporting 2,000-plus employees in nine global sites.

Zaret received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut and completed her post-graduate studies at the Universidad de Sevilla in Seville, Spain.

Lori Zaret: Exchange Bank’s hybrid workforce model is still in place today. Our customer-facing employees are unique in that they have been in the branches serving customers since the start of the pandemic. For the remaining staff, individual managers are managing their teams according to their specific needs, allowing for more flexible work schedules.

We have also brought on individuals with targeted skill sets who live and are working remotely in markets outside of Sonoma County and will continue do that where it makes sense to attract talent and remain flexible. At the same time, we’ve increased our information security measures with the expansion of remote work.

Or, are you asking employees who worked remotely to return to full, in-office routines? If this is the case, how have you worked to transition them into that arrangement and at what pace?

Kristina Derkos: RCU’s President & CEO Brett Martinez had a very clear “people” vision day one of the pandemic. We would send as many employees home as possible to work remotely to keep them safe. We would give them the tools and support to work from home comfortably. We would not set any artificial date to return to work until it was safe to do so.

Though many employers brought back their employees early on in the pandemic, Brett steadfastly believed there was a way to continue to serve our members while serving our employees’ best interests.

In fact, Brett charged the entire leadership team with ensuring we took care of our employees and our members. This meant allowing as many employees to work from home as possible, while protecting and taking care of employees whose jobs can only be done in person. It is a huge undertaking to serve everyone equally well, but RCU’s amazing employees were up for the challenge.

As a result, leaders have been communicative and open with our employees, and our employees in return have been open about pandemic challenges they are facing both professionally and personally. This has been instrumental in addressing and balancing everyone’s needs while keeping our doors open.

To be successful, we first had to take care of people’s physical and psychological safety.

RCU realized early on that our internal practices needed to allow employees to stay home at the first sign of a sniffle. We believed we had a moral obligation to protect not only our staff but the whole community by not contributing to the spread of the virus.

We also realized that providing tools for our employees’ mental and physical health was paramount, so we invested in enhancing current programs and creating new ones without passing on costs.

Brenda Gilchrist

Co-founder and partner, HR Matrix LLC, 528 B St., Santa Rosa, CA 95401; 707-526-0877 x11;

Brenda Gilchrist and the HR Matrix Associates team assists clients across all industries throughout the North Bay and across the state. Most of the work is centered on helping clients assess, design, develop and optimize their HR systems, policies, programs and approaches to support operational and financial goals, while engaging and supporting the employees.

Brenda Gilchrist: Some of our clients have requested employees to be on-site, on the same day, to encourage staff to have in-person interactions. For some positions, it was discovered they can remain fully remote and will only be required to attend in person for important all-staff or companywide meetings. The majority of our clients never stopped their operations. As of today, most of our clients are back to fully functioning, while still accommodating some people with flexibility to work remotely, if possible.

Linda Lang: We are slowly transitioning to having greater in office schedules.  It’s quite possible that many jobs will not return to a traditional five-day/ 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule this year but will remain in a more flexible arrangement as long as the needs of patients and employees are well met.

Beverly Murray: We have not yet asked our caregivers to return to full in-office routines.  Where we can work to be flexible and meet the needs of our caregivers, we strive to do so.

Stephanie Reynolds: We realized that asking employees to return to full in-office routines was not necessary. For our type of workplace, employees showed they could produce fantastic work from home, so we did not force the issue.

Tiffany Vigil: We are not returning to 100% in-office except where needed to meet the needs of the youth we serve. However, we have asked staff to return to more frequent in-person meetings in order to increase the engagement of our youth and to facilitate team cohesion and collaboration.

Melanie Wise: We’re starting to bring people back to the office to get more time together to collaborate, improve communication and cross-train. True cross-training and collaboration can be challenging from a remote space. There’s something valuable about hearing someone speak and interacting with them in person.

It’s been a slow transition to fulltime as we continue to monitor COVID cases and transmissions.

We’ve started with a part-time in-office schedule — one to two days a week — and intend to increase that over time depending on factors such as COVID-19 transmission rates, coupled with our ability to maintain business standards in a hybrid work environment.

We’re very cautious about COVID transmission and pace ourselves by talking to employees about their personal safety in the office. We make sure we’re addressing our employees’ concerns. There are some cases where people just don’t want to come back to the office and prefer to work remotely because they don’t want to commute and/or enjoy the balance of working from home. But for others this is a personal safety issue, and we try to address all these needs.

We expect all teams will eventually return to the office except for those we hired for fully remote positions.

Lori Zaret: We had originally planned to have staff back full to a 100%-office environment, as we value the benefits of collaborating in person. However, we’ve also learned the benefits of providing flexible work situations, depending on the various needs of departments. In some areas, like operations, we’re making sure we’re not pulling too many people back at once. We’ll continue this trade-off situation of who comes in and who works remotely for the foreseeable future.

Have employee requests for mental health support increased in the past year? If so, in what ways have you adjusted your company’s policies to accommodate their needs?

Ashley Baker: We have had occasions where staff members needed extra time off to address mental health needs, which we have allowed.  We have had more informal events at work, such as employee lunches and social hours, to show our appreciation and bring some more fun to work to help with stress.  We also have been promoting our Employee Assistance Program.

Kristina Derkos: RCU has a long and deep history of caring about our employees’ emotional, financial and physical wellness. However, with the back-to-back events of the fires and pandemic, it was important for us to acknowledge the depth of emotional and physical fatigue and trauma that our employees and our communities might be experiencing in their lives. As such, we enhanced our wellness benefits, reduced work hours while paying full pay, offered more time-off benefits for our employees to take care of themselves, and hired top-tier experts to come talk and provide practical advice and help to our employees and communities for free.

Monica Flores: In acknowledgment of the emotional impacts the pandemic has had on nearly everyone, QKA has created a wellness team to focus on the mental and physical well-being of our staff. The wellness team provides advice, mindfulness opportunities, officewide “walkabouts” and monthly walking challenges, and group events such as “Origami Night.” We also maintain a wellness channel on our in-office Microsoft Teams platform.

Brenda Gilchrist: Some of our clients have extended medical leave accommodations (remote work) for some employees that continue to have fear about the virus due to medical issues; immune compromised, etc. However, most companies and staff have learned more about the virus, and their level of fear and stress have greatly diminished knowing that the current variants are less dangerous and that early treatment options are now available and known.

Lynn Ichinaga: Team members have embraced Friedman’s discretionary personal leave program that was extended during the early stages of the pandemic to provide flexibility and relief for a variety of personal circumstances. These leave-of-absence requests allowed our customer-facing and corporate team members to care for their health and the health of their families and were granted freely with minimal information required.

Our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) continues to be of benefit, supporting team members with access to counseling, as well as resources to manage a variety of stressors inside and outside of work. These include financial counseling, child and elder care resources, legal resources, stress-management techniques, and extensive physical and mental health and well-being information.

To continue to provide a safety net for our team members, we have extended supplemental sick pay, and maintain our Employee-First Hardship Fund, which is always available for those in need.

Linda Lang: I would not say that HR has received greater requests for mental health support directly but we do assess needs through the number of contacts employees and their families have with our Employee Assistance Program.  While the EAP never discloses employee names and other specifics, we do get regular numeric utilization reports.   As a result, we have had our EAP do on-site in-service sessions to make employees aware of services available to them.  In addition, we have increased the number of scheduled chaplain hours in our spiritual care department to accommodate the needs of patients, family members and our staff.  We have seen a considerable increase in outreach from staff to our non-denominational chaplains.

Beverly Murray: Providence provides numerous mental health services/resources for our caregivers (all employees are referred to as caregivers whether providing bedside care or not) in person at selected facilities, virtual same-day services, wellness programs/apps and traditional mental health provider services.  We also have increased training opportunities about coping with stress and burnout.

Stephanie Reynolds: Yes, we have had increased inquiries regarding our Employee Assistance Program (EAP), and new employees have been interested in the mental health options with our insurance plan. Previously, the questions on new insurance plans focused on co-pays and ER visits.

Tiffany Vigil: Yes. We have invested in a robust Employee Assistance Program that provides extensive mental health services as well as providing our staff with 100% employer-paid medical insurance.

Melanie Wise: Absolutely. In the last two years, we’ve seen an uptick in burnout, exhaustion and stress factors mostly related to influences outside of work, such as the political environment, family, illness, and/or inflation. We’ve seen more employees request a leave of absence, shift their career paths or leave their jobs altogether.

We already had an employee assistance plan (EAP) in place that offers up to six sessions with a mental health professional at no cost to the employee. We’ve also shifted some of our time-off policies to provide more flexibility. We have included floating holidays and reiterated that staff can use sick time for their mental health needs. We are continuously tracking what’s happening in the market as our goal is to remain ahead of the ball on this issue.

Lori Zaret: Our company’s policies have always included access to mental health support. However, we recognize the impact the pandemic has had on our employees and their family members, and our collective mindset has shifted; we are now even more cognizant of and empathetic toward mental health needs on a daily basis.

After the North Bay fires, we recognized the need for increased time off during times of stress and instituted ongoing wellness programs. As a result of the pandemic, we have further expanded these programs and continue to explore new ways to help our employees and their families.

Is your department or company’s efforts in recruiting and hiring more or less difficult now? Please tell us why and in what ways you and your company have had to adapt.

Ashley Baker: Recruiting and hiring is much more challenging.  We have had to increase starting pay rates, work harder to source passive job candidates, promote work-from-home options to candidates, bring in temporary staff, reassign duties from open jobs to existing staff members, and increase employee referral bonuses for applicant referrals who are hired.

Kristina Derkos: Thankfully, due to RCU’s reputation as a great place to work, I believe this has allowed it to be an easier road for us. We have yet to experience the “Great Resignation,” and our retention rates continue to be strong. However, we have definitely seen the numbers of candidates applying shrink as many job seekers are opting to take sabbaticals from working to practice self-care before re-entering the workforce.s.

Monica Flores: Like most, our efforts in recruiting and hiring have been challenged this past year. For example, conducting interviews virtually can make it difficult to pick up on the slightest behavioral cues that may interfere with a candidate’s cultural fit, as well as professional experiences that relate to the job or task. To combat some of these challenges, we’ve increased our college career-day presence, as well as incentive bonuses for QKA staff whose recommendations lead to a new hire.

Brenda Gilchrist: Hiring talent in Sonoma County has already been a challenge and has recently faced the impact of the "Great Resignation."

Many of our clients have experienced an increase in the lack of available talent. Our firm has credited this increase to the fact that many workers have realized they prefer having a better life balance, and have chosen to stay home, retire early or reduce their hours. Many employees have felt some work environments have become caustic and too politically charged and have decided to seek out other work environments, including some that refuse to work for employers that mandate vaccines.

At this juncture, I feel employers need to evaluate the impact of the mandates on their ability to attract and retain workers, aswell as encourage employers to create unifying experiences with cross-functional teams to work and thrive together. What many employers across the United States have learned is that taking political stances and deploying political-driven programs and trainings in the workplace have caused divisiveness within workplaces.

Lynn Ichinaga: In the midst of the pandemic, we were fortunate to add corporate store-support positions, creating roles and filling them with candidates bearing the right skill sets, experience and cultural fit. For our retail positions, we have maintained a steady hiring stream despite increased difficulty in terms of fewer applicants for positions..

Linda Lang: Recruiting has always been challenging and it has gotten more so during the pandemic and what some call the “Great Resignation.”  We have upgraded our talent acquisition channels and tools, and added recruiting staff.

We continue to monitor our compensation and benefit offerings and we have increased our employee referral bonuses, especially for hard-to-fill positions.  Perhaps more importantly, we are encouraging our managers to round on their current staff and “re-recruit” their solid performers.  Retaining and rewarding our valued team members can eliminate some of our recruiting stresses!

Beverly Murray: The workforce crisis has changed the landscape of healthcare recruiting — more competition, less available candidates, and the continuing need to provide quality health care.  All the new processes have required major changes in technology and processes as candidates’ expectations have changed.

Providence has implemented new nursing cohorts, which support training new nurses, and fellows cohorts training for nurses who would like to move to a different nursing area where there are critical needs.  Virtual interviewing, technology updates in application, and onboarding processes and geo-fencing are a few of the new processes that have developed.

Stephanie Reynolds: Recruiting and hiring have been a challenge. Candidates know that employers are having a tough time, so qualified and experienced employees have the advantage.

Along with expanding our overall outreach for job postings, we have connected with new referral sources so we can bring in more diverse candidates. We are still holding some initial remote interviews, as we want to be accommodating to potential candidates. We then bring candidates into the office for second-round interviews to meet several employees, not just the interview panel.

Tiffany Vigil: Recruiting and hiring have become more difficult during the pandemic due to the general public’s increased mental health needs, leading to more competitive hiring of behavioral health staff. We are meeting this challenge by developing closer relationships with local universities to recruit graduates and candidates from broader geographical regions due to hybrid work practices.

We also are increasingly focused on reaching out to passive candidates and are better utilizing social media to market our current openings.

Melanie Wise: It’s both. For companies that want people to be in the office fulltime, we are finding that for some roles it’s more challenging because some job seekers are resistant. When hiring for higher-level professional roles, we sometimes see pushback because candidates prefer to work from home.

However, in some industries we see little to no impact, such as in retail, health care, production and manufacturing environments where the work itself is not able to be accomplished in a remote work environment.

We also see companies with remote work options casting a much wider net to recruit and hire new talent. The difficulty or ease of hiring in this environment depends on the company and their remote work policies.

Lori Zaret: Recruiting and hiring are markedly different now. The overall job market in Sonoma County is challenging, with many pursuing nontraditional careers, exploring self-employment and working remotely for out-of-area employers.  Plus, qualified people have moved out of the area due to the high cost of living. Online job postings are not as viable, though we’ve added new tools to expand candidate sources. Employee referrals continue to help with our recruiting efforts.

In what ways have you changed your approach to work in order to better care for yourself, department managers and staff?

Ashley Baker: Some of the things we have done include allowing remote work when possible, increasing communication and recognition, providing more opportunities for fun and connection, and improving benefit offerings.

Kristina Derkos: To be frank, I did not take care of myself as well as I should have; the fires and the pandemic certainly had a profound impact on my daily life. Leaders often have the mindset of helping their employees and those they serve first and foremost, especially when facing the kind of adversity our communities have faced over the last several years.

This mindset can be a blessing and a curse. One of my great learnings is that we are all human. There is strength and power in understanding that to be the best human you can be, you don’t have to be a superhero.

You must take care of yourself first, so you can continue to be there for others. If you don’t, at some point it will prevent you from being able to help others. For anyone who needs to hear this — the most unselfish thing you can do is to celebrate and embrace taking care of yourself first. Only then, can you be ready to take on the world with a smile. Never feel guilty in practicing self-care and never feel embarrassed to ask for help.

Monica Flores: Keeping an open mind and dialing in to our employees’ needs is an imperative, along with avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach.

For mespecifically, this means being able to create and stick to my professional boundaries. When I disconnect from work, I truly set those limits. It also helps that I prefer to be in the office, so my work is at work and my home is my safe place for grounding and enjoying my family. For department managers and staff, the key will be in understanding their employees and fostering an individual approach to people management.

Brenda Gilchrist: The government lockdowns forced many of our clients to look at more efficient ways to process their work. In the end, we feel employers were able to leverage technology and resources that increased overall efficiency. The approach to work, in many cases, became more streamlined, resulting in an opportunity to look at different ways to approach how tasks, projects and teams work.

Lynn Ichinaga: One of our core values is “care,” which puts people first, and we have always worked to encourage a healthy work-life balance and wellness within a work environment that fosters genuine connection. Continuing to show our appreciation for the time and effort ourteam members dedicate to Friedman’s became more difficult when we could not hold in-person barbecues or events, but we came up with some creative solutions. For example, providing individual to-go meals that would previously have been enjoyed at a team member appreciation lunch. Linda Lang

I am fortunate in that I live fairly close to my office and I can flex my day depending on meeting schedules.  I’m in-office most days but I still do a lot of Zoom meetings.  I allow my managers and staff needed flexibility.  I’m very fortunate to have an extremely conscientious team so our work is getting done.  We promote self-care — good eating and exercise habits — and we reward those behaviors with Wellness Credits that result in various gifts and incentives.

Beverly Murray: I have changed the leadership approach by emphasizing wellness, role modeling work-life blend, and spending time to become an expert in our wellness resources through education and participation. Examples include:

Wellness “shares” at the end of team meetings.

Leading wellness challenges in the “Providence Choose Well” program that pays a benefit if eligible caregivers complete 40,000 points of wellness activities or education annually.

Minimizing off-hour communications and setting expectations of no required responses outside of working hours absent an emergency.

Role modeling reasonable use of PTO where I am completely unplugged from work.

Stephanie Reynolds: I take a holistic approach to care. If our team (me included) is not taking care of themselves, they do not perform well or take care of their teams. If we’re overstressed, we don’t see the needs of others.

We do our best to provide a healthy workplace which incorporates wellness benefits, including a workout room and quiet room at our headquarters. We have a large kitchen for staff to enjoy together with an outside patio where people can eat, sit, or even take meetings. We learn about other departments’ projects and needs and help out where we can. We also offer time off each month for employees to volunteer and provide generous PTO time.

Lynne Smith: Our company culture revolves around employee connection; diversity, equity and inclusion; and a work model centered on flexibility and autonomy. We’ve invested in new technologies that support remote work and collaboration, and supported our Employee Network Groups, which bring together colleagues from across the globe who have common interests and backgrounds.

Tiffany Vigil: We have implemented a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council to look at initiatives that increase equity and a sense of belonging amongst our staff. Our CEO, Dr. Christine Garcia, has been leading our team since the fall with an increased focused on trauma-informed management practices, such as mindfulness about physical and psychological safety, creating trustworthy environments, giving employees choice and a voice, plus empowerment building, such as recognizing employee strengths.

Melanie Wise: We’ve noticed employees in a hybrid workforce are standardly working longer and harder, and often not feeling like they can take time off. We continuously emphasize the need to shut down work at a specific time and that employees be accountable for taking time off. We understand it’s harder to separate home life from work, so we ask people (specifically managers) to be thoughtful about how and when they communicate with colleagues. For example, don’t regularly message co-workers regarding business needs outside of business hours and expect them to reply.

We also try to emphasize creating boundaries between work and home life, especially for those in remote and/or hybrid positions. As an example, asking employees to develop a routine which simulates the “old” commute, such as going for a walk after they shut down, meditating or reading.

Prior to remote and/or hybrid work environments, we experienced a separation of home and life, which was traditionally accomplished via the commute and allowed the mental transition that we are finding is often lost in our current environment.

Lori Zaret: We urge our staff, if you feel unwell, stay home! This attitude of taking care of ourselves first, rather than putting work first, is right in line with our culture.

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