NORTHUMBERLAND — Furmano Foods’ benefits manager said the company takes its role as an essential business seriously, particularly when it comes to the mental health of its employees.
Melinda Overdorf, HR benefits manager at Furmano Foods, 770 Cannery Road, Northumberland, said feeding people and ensuring food was delivered had become essential during the COVID-19 pandemic. The effort proved to be a strain on the mental health of everyone involved.
“We were able to produce and keep going,” Overdorf said. “We could get that through the line, through the gates. We try to meet people’s expectations. It was essential to keep our people on the job, to make sure they were at work every day, to get the product out. It was stressful. We wanted to make sure that our product would still be there.
A wellness coach was introduced and worked on site two days a week, at least once for each shift. She would provide physical and mental health counseling and promote the Employee Assistance Program through Bethesda. Through company health insurance, employees have access to virtual visits with a counselor, Overdorf said.
Employees were often asked to complete surveys to discuss their level of stress. They received handouts with resources and tips for dealing with stress, she said.
Overdorf said her own mental health was struggling as she mostly worked from home as it was the “busiest time of my life”. She said she had to track each employee’s health records to determine who was quarantined due to exposure, who was hospitalized, who was able to return and take phone calls about health-related issues. health, while making sure everyone was paid properly, she said.
“It was very stressful,” she said. “It changed our whole world. I was pretty much available 24/7, weekdays and weekends.
Living alone, Overdorf said she worked long hours and would realize late at night that she had missed dinner.
Overdorf said her coping strategies and relaxation came from church, good friends and family, prayer, and talking with the company’s wellness coach.
The Vice President of Surplus Outlet describes small business as a flexible workplace. Justin Michaels, the vice president of the grocery store at 281 Point Township Drive, said the sense of family allowed employees to take time off as needed if they felt overwhelmed.
“We have a job to do, but we have to take care of each other,” he said.
Michaels said precautions were taken to ease the minds of employees, such as masks, plexiglass at registers and sanitary stations.
“We’re more than just an everyday business,” Michaels said. “We offer groceries as a local community store. We have a responsibility to help our friends, family and neighbors. When COVID hit, people were scared. We wanted to make sure we had the necessary products.
Greg Renner, a 15-year-old longtime employee, said he was never stressed about himself, but always worried about his colleagues. Employees were always able to talk to each other.
“We had the option to take some time off,” Renner said. “It was an open door”
Employees often said it was their “duty” to work, they said.
“That’s what we’re here for,” Renner said. “People have to eat. We have to be there to make sure people can eat and their needs are met. »