Promote stress management tools, techniques and practices that can be done right at your desk if the situation arises.

The pandemic pause brought us to a moment of collective reckoning about what it means to live well and to work well. As a result, employees are sending employers an urgent signal that they are no longer willing to choose one — life or work — at the cost of the other. Working from home brought life literally into our work. And as the world now goes hybrid, employees are drawing firmer boundaries about how much of their work comes into their life. Where does this leave employers? And which perspectives and programs contribute most to progress? In our newest interview series, Working Well: How Companies Are Creating Cultures That Support & Sustain Mental, Emotional, Social, Physical & Financial Wellness, we are talking to successful executives, entrepreneurs, managers, leaders, and thought leaders across all industries to share ideas about how to shift company cultures in light of this new expectation. We’re discovering strategies and steps employers and employees can take together to live well and to work well.

As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Tim Cross.

Tim Cross is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Expedited Transport Agency Inc. located in Vestavia Hills, Alabama. Cross is heavily involved with the alcohol and drug addiction recovery community nationwide as well as multiple non-profit organizations supporting a variety of causes. He is a Governing Board Member with the Addiction Prevention Coalition and with his leadership, ETA has sponsored and supported the following: End Addiction BHAM Walk, Bruce Pearl Fore the Children Golf Classic (benefiting Children’s Harbor), Jefferson County Second Chance Hiring Fair as well as the formation of ETA’s 501(c)3 organization, Together We Serve.

Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you better. Tell us about a formative experience that prompted you to change your relationship with work and how work shows up in your life.

At the age of 16, I was carrying roofing shingles up a ladder onto a roof all day long. I decided right then that I would be on the other side of the job in the future. When I finally decided to be self-employed, I decided I would not fit this company into my life, but rather I decided to bring my whole life to this company. It is a level of personal responsibility I have never experienced before with the exception of caring for my children.

Harvard Business Review predicts that wellness will become the newest metric employers will use to analyze and to assess their employees’ mental, physical and financial health. How does your organization define wellness, and how does your organization measure wellness?

At ETA, we offer many benefits when it comes to mental, physical, and financial health. We provide and offer health, dental, and vision insurance, long and short-term disability, life Insurance, an IRA at 3% match, and PTO. We encourage and give access to the owner’s personal North Western Mutual representative. Employees have implemented all sorts of investment strategies that best fit them personally and their families. 60% of our employees are sober alcoholics and addicts. Ownership and management support those employees and the non-alcoholic employees emotionally, financially, with the accountability to stay sober. As part of our management approach, we are interested in what goals and achievements employees have outside of work. They are coached on creating a plan, implementing that plan, and tracking results along the way to ensure they fulfill what is important to them.

Based on your experience or research, how do you correlate and quantify the impact of a well workforce on your organization’s productivity and profitability?

I would say the personal approach to support people on their nonprofessional goals has been really huge. We identify their “why” they come here to work when they could go anywhere. That spurred us into creating a 501(c)3 organization called Together We Serve. The board is entirely comprised of ETA employees. They determine where to allocate the funds that are raised. They decide how to most effectively impact our local communities. Also, we identify their big “why” outside of work as well such as children, retirement, vacation home, getting married, buying a new house or car. We have seen immeasurable results through numerous accomplishments.

Even though most leaders have good intentions when it comes to employee wellness, programs that require funding are beholden to business cases like any other initiative. The World Health Organization estimates for every $1 invested into treatment for common mental health disorders, there is a return of $4 in improved health and productivity. That sounds like a great ROI. And, yet many employers struggle to fund wellness programs that seem to come “at the cost of the business.” What advice do you have to offer to other organizations and leaders who feel stuck between intention and impact?

For the employees who suffer with traumatic past events, PTSD, drug addiction, we have supported and encouraged them to seek professional advice and even supported that financially. The advice is to do it and encourage people that it is okay to ask for help. Don’t stand for your employees to hide from dealing with these issues. After all, we are talking about people’s lives that are at stake.

Speaking of money matters, a recent Gallup study reveals employees of all generations rank well-being as one of their top three employer search criteria. How are you incorporating wellness programs into your talent recruitment and hiring processes?

We are 100% up front with all prospective employees and all of these things are mentioned and discussed during the interview process as well as the benefits they can expect from us.

We’ve all heard of the four-day work week, unlimited PTO, mental health days, and on-demand mental health services. What innovative new programs and pilots are you launching to address employee wellness? And, what are you discovering? We would benefit from an example in each of these areas.

  • Mental Wellness:
  • Emotional Wellness:
  • Social Wellness:
  • Physical Wellness:
  • Financial Wellness:

In support of May being Mental Health Awareness Month, we dedicated an entire week that we observed as our Mental Health Awareness Week. We supported this vital cause through our social media as well as an implementation of in-office practices promoting mental health wellness. We focused on battling the stigma by providing education, support, by sharing personal experiences and spreading compassion and love.

We are reaching out to a local group called Addiction Prevention Coalition. They provide training on Mental Health Awareness and Suicide Prevention. We are requesting they come to train our management team to be aware of and recognize the signs. We believe catching those signs is an important first step in supporting employees to seek help. Our management staff has an open-door policy. As an employee, you can approach us with whatever it is your dealing or struggling with in life. The reason is we have all dealt with those same issues ourselves. We insist on passing on the understanding and support that they are not alone, and it is possible to get to the other side of those troubles.

Can you please tell us more about a couple of specific ways workplaces would benefit from investing in your ideas above to improve employee wellness?

We are a 2nd chance employer. As and owner who has had problems with alcohol and drugs in the past, I was given a 2nd chance. That 2nd chance afforded me to get on a path to redeem myself and become a human being that makes a difference in the world. We believe those past mistakes should not define us for a lifetime.

How are you reskilling leaders in your organization to support a “Work Well” culture?

We have hired an outside performance coach to train all management. Removing yourself from the personal equation freeing yourself up to be a cause in the matter of people’s lives. This has been ongoing training over the last several years. We believe putting ourselves in this position has allowed us to grow exponentially in the last 5 years.

Ideas take time to implement. What is one small step every individual, team, or organization can take to get started on these ideas — to get well?

The one small step would be the declaration and the commitment to those ideas. A declaration meaning it lives out here in the world. Next, would be what structure you are going to put in place to ensure those commitments are fulfilled on.

What are your “Top 5 Trends to Track In the Future of Workplace Wellness?”

  1. Support breaks and time off to recharge in the form of mental health days.
  2. Offering financial education programs to inform our employees of the best ways to build financial stability.
  3. Continue to support the mental health and well-being of our employees by offering and recommending therapy as time off.
  4. Continue to promote an open line of communication. We know everyone has issues outside of the office, but we are here to help, listen and be compassionate.
  5. Promote stress management tools, techniques and practices that can be done right at your desk if the situation arises.

What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of workplace wellness?

My greatest source of optimism is the ongoing conversation about workplace wellness that is already happening. Getting to be a part of forwarding that conversation and being of service to our fellow human gets me charged up!

Our readers often like to continue the conversation with our featured interviewees. How can they best connect with you and stay current on what you’re discovering?

Our company is very active on social media and through those channels, your readers can follow us to stay current.

Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and wellness.