Mental Health, Organizational Risk, and Corporate Health During COVID-19: Webinar Review

By Beatrice Raccanello (LAW ’10)

On May 12, 2021, the Temple Law Center for Compliance and Ethics, in collaboration with Center Advisory Board members, Troutman Pepper, Ernst & Young, and Aramark, hosted a webinar titled Mental Health, Organizational Risk, and Corporate Culture. The goal was to understand the impact of COVID-19 on employee mental health and the implications for compliance and ethics programs. During the webinar, speakers discussed current trends and best practices for supporting employee mental health, organizational culture, and compliance and ethics programs.

Abigail A. Hazlett, a partner at Troutman Pepper, moderated a panel discussion with Dr. Nicole Cammack, President and CEO of Black Mental Wellness Corp.; Janet Holcombe, Vice President and Chief Compliance and Privacy Officer at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; Kiley Smith Kelly, Principal at Ernst and Young; and Steve Harris, Senior Vice President and Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer at Lincoln Financial Group.

Dr. Cammack discussed the importance of leveraging a variety of wellness strategies to address employee mental health. In her view, the pandemic has helped to normalize conversations about mental health. Dr. Cammack discussed the role that organizations and their leaders have in reducing the stigma of mental health. Although therapy has historically been viewed as a sign of weakness, Dr. Cammack emphasized that seeking therapy takes strength and can be essential in helping employees manage difficult times and identifying coping strategies that work for them.

The panelists identified stress and fatigue as the most significant factors creating compliance and ethics risks during the pandemic. Many organizations have conducted analyses to identify and monitor high-risk activities resulting from the pandemic; however, the impact of these increased risk factors will play out over time.

On a positive note, panelists noted that the pandemic has sparked an increase in employee collaboration, team morale, and a speak-up culture as a result of focused leadership outreach to employees. Barriers to global collaboration have also been removed. Organizations ensured that mental health resources were available and accessible and reinforced that employees were not alone. Such efforts included flexible work hours, mandatory time off, and leveraging employee resource and peer support groups. Panelists also highlighted efforts to provide access to meditation, sleep or fitness apps, Employee Assistance Programs, and health and fitness plans. The panel stressed the importance of fostering an organizational culture of trust during this time.

Due to their traditional role in their organizations, compliance and ethics officers have played a significant role in leadership and employee discussions of mental health during COVID-19.Although organizations often do not know where to start, Dr. Cammack noted that simply providing more information about wellness assistance programs can make a big difference. She reminded participants that systemic challenges were not built overnight and would not be fixed quickly. However, small changes, when done in partnership with employees and other organizations, can have a big impact.

Beatrice Raccanello (LAW ’10) serves as the Director of the Center for Compliance and Ethics. Her interest in compliance started in 2015 when she was a member of the Steering Committee of the Center for Compliance and Ethics to assist with the initial launch. She is eager to continue leading Center activities in providing student and professional education programs, fostering academic research and thought leadership, and advancing the public-private sector dialogue in this rapidly evolving area.

This article originally appeared in The Compliance Monthly feature of Temple10Q, Temple’s Business Law Magazine.