Kathy McCarthy is the administrative assistant to the interim senior director of MHealthy, the University of Michigan employee wellness department. In this role, she supports MHealthy in bringing comprehensive health and well-being programs to faculty and staff across three academic campuses and the university hospital. Kathy’s work encompasses a range of responsibilities including scheduling, human resources functions, communications, strategic planning and project management.
What’s a new professional resource (i.e. websites, measures, tools, books) you’ve found useful for improving your efforts?
I’m currently reading “The Art of Community” by Charles H. Vogl. I love the practical insights on how to purposefully build community and positive connections. After watching a HERO webinar with Amy Edmonson this winter, I began seeking out resources to help me gain a better understanding of concepts around building and sustaining positive communities. I’m finding it quite interesting to learn about various principles of community building, and to explore how to apply those ideas to my work in employee wellness. This book has some very practical insights and suggestions that I am excited to apply in my current position with the University of Michigan.
Thinking about the future, where do you believe the next major focus will or should be in the field of workplace health and well-being?
At the University of Michigan, we’re currently expanding the focus of our work to include addressing the social determinants of health. We know that, despite comprehensive programs encompassing a wide range of well-being issues, some of our employees still face barriers to achieving the level of health that they want. As a result, we’re doing more programming that targets specific needs of these employees. We are expanding our offerings to include options such as: scholarships for exercise classes, meal planning specifically for our third shift workers, budgeting and retirement-planning classes and more. We are weaving diversity, equity and inclusion concepts throughout all of our efforts. We’re also working more closely with our benefits office to ensure that our benefits plans help to reduce barriers to health as much as possible. As we look to the future of well-being programming, we want to be sure to consider and counter the impact of social determinants of health as much as possible.
What simple tip or learning can you share that employers can implement to help others enhance workplace well-being?
It’s vital to listen to those you serve. I think that it’s important to occasionally remind ourselves of this simple, yet powerful, tool to success. Pay attention to what your co-workers and employees say what they want related to their well-being. Pause and consider their thoughts and ideas. Ask questions about what is helping them and what isn’t working for them and always ask why. Stay curious about everyone you serve and what they have to offer. Leaders at all levels must stay connected to the people that they support, and to recognize that their input is as valuable as that of the experts in the field.