As COVID-19 stress rises, employee mental health is a top priority at Hudson Valley CU


When it comes to communicating about wellness at Hudson Valley CU, the subject of employees’ mental health is consistently part of the conversation.

Even before the COVID-19 public health crisis, Hudson Valley CU had implemented a variety of practices in an effort to ensure that employees have access to the mental health assistance they may need.

“Now with this pandemic, our HR employee business partners are serving more than ever as sounding boards for staff — many of whom are experiencing unprecedented levels of stress from spouses losing jobs to homeschooling requirements now for all ages,” said Agnes Covell, Hudson Valley CU’s assistant VP of Total Rewards. “Everyone’s individual level of stress is so high, and a true work-life balance really focuses on managing stress every day.”

The credit union noticed increased stress among younger staff who are trying to balance it all — career, parenting, caring for elders, self-education. They also began noticing an anecdotal increase in absences due to mental health issues. The good news for employees is that Hudson Valley CU already had a variety of mental health initiatives in place to help.

Hudson Valley CU’s insurance provider, Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield, offers robust mental health services, including therapist appointments in person or via Telemed. Empire’s service is through LiveHealth Online.

Its employee assistance program has counselors available 24/7, a free service that is available to staff and all members of their households. The credit union also uses a third-party administrator, Matrix, to manage employee leaves, so the reasons for employee leaves remain confidential.

Additionally, the credit union began offering meditation technique seminars for staff last year, with a local expert coaching several sessions. “We’re also working with her to build a broader program to promote stress-reduction techniques that can help manage the levels we feel in various situations,” Covell explained.

Covell also said that they brought in experts last year from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to discuss the topic with staff, and posted and sent information to all branch locations and the credit union’s headquarters.

And each November, the credit union hosts an employee wellness expo, inviting community vendors and health care partners to meet with staff.  In 2019, ASFP and the Dutchess County Department of Behavioral and Community Health attended the event, Covell said.

The credit union also has a partnership with the Hudson Valley Healing Center in Poughkeepsie and has sponsored salt cave sessions for employees, inviting representatives from the center to present a meditation session for staff.

“We recognize there is, unfortunately, still a negative stigma attached to mental health issues,” said Covell. “Our main goal as we work to implement more wellness initiatives for mental health is to ensure staff know that it is OK to say, ‘I need help.’”

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